Huw Buck, Wales Racing Academy rider
19 year old Huw Buck is a multi-talented member of the Wales Racing Academy. He’s as happy flying down a rocky descent as he is rubbing elbows on the road, or churning through a ‘cross race. I got to have a brief chat with Huw a few days before he rides the Junior Mtb World Championships.
How did you first get into cycling?
As a seven year old Huw fell in love with the bike. While the other kids were playing football in the cul-de-sac where, he lived he would be riding round them. After a while his mum started taking him to a local Mtb trail-centre. As well as improving his Mtb skills, Huw was introduced to the road and ‘cross by other parents. They belonged to a local club that had clubbed together to buy a collection of Isla bikes. Here he learnt to ride on the road and took part in club races.
This shows the importance of local clubs finding and nurturing young talent. Without the dedication of volunteers helping new and young riders into the sport, we wouldn’t have the GB stars we do now. Of course you can’t forget the work of parents either. Huw says he dad used to ride with him on the road, making sure he was safe: until Huw started dropping him!
Mtb, road or ‘cross?
I asked which Huw which discipline he preferred, there was no hesitation: it’s Mtb! For him it’s just so much more of an enjoyable effort, from descending on trails to going up a massive mountain the riding is fun. Huw also said that the atmosphere is also a lot more friendly and chilled in the off-road scene. Not that he isn’t concerned about results, results still matter. Last year he was 2nd overall in BC’s Junior XC Mtb series, which included two 3rd places. He also got to ride some of the big European events like the Lenzerheide World Cup and La Thuile, where he was 18th elite, 8th U23.
Huw said riding on the continent was a real eye-opener. The terrain is just so much bigger, nothing like here in the UK. Also the whole atmosphere around the event was great, what with the fans and high-profile riders. Huw said it was amazing to be able to stand next to Nino Schurter and watch how he took certain lines: learning from the boss!
Talking about the World’s Mtb course Huw said that although he had ridden in the area before, the World’s course was new. With a mix of natural and man-made features it would be quite short for a Championship – laps being around ten minutes – but he thought it should be good. Throw in some home support and we could see GB kit on the podium.
How about the road?
While his first love is Mtb, Huw says he will be riding a mix of road and Mtb during the summer, probably around a 50-50 mix. While he finds the atmosphere a little more serious, he’s happy to ride and sees his future involving more road racing in the near future. Like many young riders the long-term plan is to get noticed and hopefully picked up by a pro-team. Unfortunately with the state of pro racing in the UK, Huw realises that this means joining a team abroad: and probably spending some time on Duo-Lingo!
I asked him if he had any heroes when it came to cycling: his is Peter Sagan. I should have been able to guess that one. Sagan is another rider who excels on and off road, much like Huw. Definitely a good role model to look up to: who knows we may see Huw emulating some of Sagan’s exploits?
Riding with Wales Racing Academy
Huw has been racing with the Wales Racing Academy in 2023. The Academy’s aim is to support U23 riders into Olympic or professional careers. 2023 saw him racing in Belgium and the Netherlands with the Academy. Some good results and the experience gained there helped before taking on the British National Championship race. He finished 5th U23 and 16th overall, a good result on a tough course.
Speaking about the Academy Huw was full of praise for how it supports him and his racing. Participating in races either here or abroad is not cheap. Having support from the Wales Racing Academy and British Cycling has made it possible for him to compete. The WRA sorts out all their rider’s transport, hotels, entry fees etc. Huw is also coached by the Academy’s own coach, Rob Partridge.
While he races with the WRA’s squad on the road, the Wales Racing Academy were happy to allow him to still ride Mtb. A request to race abroad has to be planned and presented, but if it’s reasonable then the rider will be supported. This allows riders like Huw to gain experience and exposure at events that they might not otherwise attend.
As we said, Huw is a lover of off-road racing and this includes ‘cross. With many of his local trails being what he describes as muddy sheep trails, he has plenty of home trail experience. Throw in the skills from Mtb and the speed from road racing and you have a potent combination. Something that is becoming more common amongst pro riders on the road. The skills these riders pick up from racing on loose and unpredictable surfaces makes for some exciting racing. Add in the explosive, flat-out racing that typifies ‘cyclo-cross and these multi-discipline riders are changing the way races are run at the highest level.
As well as regularly placing top ten in National Trophy cyclo-cross races, Huw has competed in Europe. He rode the European Continental Championships and the infamous Koppenberg. While he suffered from mechanicals and being gridded towards the back at the Europeans, he says the experience was beneficial. Being able to ask riders like Marianne Vos or Pauline Ferrand-Prevot about line choice, is not something you often get to do!
As the summer rapidly starts to wind down Huw will have some final road races to do. These include a UCI 2.2, that should see some of the top U23 teams competing. He’ll then take a short break and then it’s back to racing ‘cross. He expects to have a slow start after the break, but hopes to be back to top-ten form, for his first full season as an U23. This will be his second year racing on a brace of Handsling CEXevo ‘cross bikes. These match the A1R0evo aero road bike that the Hampshire firm have supplied him with.
I finished off by asking Huw a few questions about if he had time for hobbies and favourite kit. Off the bike he will run at least once a week, adding longer runs as the ‘cross season approaches. The real surprise is that he has started playing golf to relax. He wouldn’t admit to what his handicap was, saying that it was more for a bit of fun with friends.
Moving on to kit, I expected him to wax lyrical about his new Handsling bikes. Instead he said his favourite bit of kit were his new, white Shimano 903 shoes! He’s been after a pair for ages and was loving them, although the cleaning is a pain!
Take a look at the Wales Racing Academy who are supporting him and his team-mates.